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Indian Football Season Review 2018-19: Chennaiyin FC

Written by: Rohan Philip


The Marina Machans failed to replicate their performance in the league from last season.

The curse of the defending champions struck yet again with its latest victim being Chennaiyin FC. The South Indian club came into the 2018-2019 season on the back of a highly dominant title-winning campaign. However, managerial naivety, key injuries and departures meant that the Marina Machans suffered their worst Indian Super League campaign to date.

A knee injury to Dhanpal Ganesh that ruled him out for the entirety of the campaign proved catastrophic to the Chennai side who failed to cope in his absence. That, coupled with the departure of club captain Henrique Soreno meant that the side was severely lacking leadership in key areas.

Ganesh’s return for the Super Cup proved just hoe crucial he was to his side’s game as they reached the final of the competition.

Fact Sheet For Indian Season 2018-19

 Season Finished: 10th

 Games Played: 18

Won: 2

Lost: 13

Drawn: 3

Win %: 11

   GF: 16

GA: 32



Chennaiyin FC set off to Malaysia for a four-week long training camp which included four pre-season friendlies. The first of these matches was played against the Malaysia U-19s and ended goalless. The Marina Machans followed it up with a 1-1 draw against the Malaysian -Indian Football Association and a game against Felda United which saw a lot of first teamers rested, which also ended 1-1. In their final pre-season friendly, the side lost out to Terengganu FC.

Chennaiyin concluded their preparations in Goa with two games scheduled against Indian Arrows. Although the side lacked several first teamers, the preseason was disappointing on the whole as they failed to register a single victory.

Top Performers



Underperformer of the Season

Jeje Lalpekhlua was chosen by John Gregory to be his side’s only out and out goal scorer.

The Mizo striker is without a doubt one of the best strikers in the history of the ISL. However, Jeje never got going in the new season and quickly set off on a domestic drought.

There had been a lot made about how Gregory’s direct approach to the game did not suit Jeje who likes the ball played to feet rather than in the air due to his diminutive stature. This proved to be the case in the 2018-2019 season with the striker being basically a passenger in most of his games. He scored his only goal of the season against Bengaluru FC to end a 336 day goal drought.

Top Three Performances

1. Chennaiyin FC 4-2 FC Pune City

2. Chennaiyin FC 2-1 Bengaluru FC

3. Chennaiyin Fc 0-0 Delhi Dynamos

Coach's Report Card

When a team performs as badly as Chennaiyin have all season, the buck often stops with the manager and it has to do so with John Gregory. The Englishman stated very publicly at the start of the season that the absence of key players like Dhanpal Ganesh would not alter the way his side played.

In hindsight, this may have been a very naïve move on his part as it was proved time and time again over the course of the season that his tactics were only as good as the ability of his players to carry them out.

This coupled with a lack of incoming talent means that Gregory could find himself out of a job come the new season.

Super Cup

The Super Cup saw the Marina Machans salvage some of the pride that they had lost in the league campaign with Anirudh Thapa and C.K Vineeth powering them to a spot in the finals. The competition also saw the long-awaited return of Dhanpal Ganesh to the starting eleven.

The South Indian side were defeated by a rampant FC Goa in the final but showed that they still had a little of the fighting spirit left in them after their torrid league campaign. It will now be up to the board and the management to begin the rebuild of the club over the summer.

Lessons to be Learned

It was a season to forget for the Marina Machans but one from which a lot can be learned. The season highlighted the fact that the ISL was evolving at such a rapid pace that it is severely dangerous to rest on the laurels of a season gone by.

The side from Chennai now have to focus on getting in a solid source of goals as well as strong leadership at the back, two things that they have severely missed this campaign. It will be interesting to see of Gregory retains his post for the next season but if he does, he has a lot to do to bring Chennaiyin back to the top of Indian football and to do justice to the fantastic sporting city that his club hails from.      

Published: Thu May 02, 2019 05:46 PM IST


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